This is a guest post by Sharvonne Williams.
As a child growing up in Harlem, I never realized that I was living in poverty. I didn’t know that the groceries my mom brought home were purchased with food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). My mom did a lot of things to make sure I never had to skip a meal and could lead a somewhat normal life, but the fact that we always had food at home is almost entirely due to SNAP.
According to the most recent census data, one out of eight Americans live in poverty. Yet, Congress just proposed a farm bill that would take food assistance away from those struggling to find work and cause one million households to lose their benefits altogether. Parents with kids over the age of 6 would face stringent requirements and a bureaucratic maze in order to receive SNAP.
Maybe for some, SNAP is just another vague federal program with no real impact on their own lives, but I’ll tell you this: It’s because of SNAP that I had enough food to eat as a child. And since I wasn’t worrying about where my next meal was coming from, I could focus on school, where I excelled. When my mom developed severe health problems and had to stop working altogether, SNAP became even more essential to our daily survival.
Today, I have a master’s degree and work as the director of operations at a nonprofit organization in Indianapolis. I’m working hard to support myself and my 15-year-old brother, who came to live with me after my mom became too sick to care for him. I’m only 28 myself and I still struggle, but I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved so far. When I look back at the different life forces that got me where I am today, SNAP is a major one.
That’s why the proposed farm bill doesn’t make sense to me. Being hungry won’t help anyone find a job, get an education, or climb out of poverty.
I would like to ask members of Congress to imagine suddenly having to skip dinner tonight, and lunch tomorrow, and breakfast the next day. Would you be able to concentrate well enough to do your daily work? Would you be a good parent? What would you tell your kids when they ask for food you can’t afford to give them?
It’s largely because of SNAP that my mom never had to face those questions. I’d argue that no parent should have to, no matter who you are or where you come from. Food should not be a privilege that only certain people “deserve.”
We are all human beings, and we all should have a chance -– at the very least -- to survive. I urge members of Congress to protect SNAP and reject the needless suffering these cuts would cause. Think about the millions of kids who just want to go to school, study, and dream of a better future. You know, kids like your own. Kids like the one I used to be.
Take action to protect SNAP here.